Saturday, August 12, 2006


In order to thoreau-ly simplify the Toobworld concept (Sorry about that, Chief!), I will have to address the issue of Zonks. Zonks are those moments in a TV show which ruin the fantasy of an inclusive TV Universe in which all TV shows share the same dimension. Most Zonks occur when one TV show makes reference to another TV show AS a TV show, when both shows should be sharing the same reality.

The most common Zonks are caused by references to 'Star Trek' and 'The Twilight Zone'. Many shows that become pop culture touchstones end up getting heavily referenced in future shows, like 'Gilligan's Island', 'The Brady Bunch', 'The X-Files', and currently 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Lost'.

Here are a couple of major Zonks from 'Seinfeld':

Jerry has the name of Superman's father ("Jor-El") as his PIN code.

On that same show, Kramer appeared as one of the secretaries in the sitcom 'Murphy Brown'.

I used to run around trying to come up with splainins as to why a character on one TV show should mention another TV show when it should be sharing the same universe. (Or in the case of 'Star Trek' Zonks, be set in that character's future so that he shouldn't even know about it.)

And some of them I will stand by. For instance, the two Zonks from 'Seinfeld'. In the main Toobworld, it's my contention that the Man of Steel is dead. And after he passed away, it was discovered in the papers and files of Clark Kent all the secrets of his other identity. Probably Lois Lane wrangled a book deal out of it all.

As for 'Murphy Brown' as a sitcom, perhaps the "real" Murphy Brown - whom we saw in action on the Real World sitcom, led a life interesting enough to warrant a sitcom based on it. And that it found in an actress named Candice Bergen, somebody who bore an amazing resemblance to the TV journalist. (Obviously her tendency to fire and hire a long string of secretaries was deemed worthy of inclusion in the televersion of her life.)

But those two splainins were fairly simple and didn't take any backbreaking effort to twist myself in knots and bend over backwards in order to supply some pretzel logic for the answer. And that's happened in the past until it just got all confusing.

So instead I plan to simplify, simplify, simplify when it comes to Zonks.

First off, longtime readers may have noticed that I dropped the exclamation point as part of the name. That was based on a frame grab graphic that I used to use in the old Tubeworld Dynamic website. (By the way, the term "Zonk" comes from the game show 'Let's Make A Deal'.)

So here's the general rule I'm going to use from now on when the need arises to splain away a Zonk.......

In the TV Universe, every TV show from the Real World has a counterpart in the TV schedules for Toobworld. That means that characters from the TV shows we watch are also watching their own versions of real-world TV shows.

But it doesn't necessarily mean that they are watching the exact same show as we would be watching. Usually the reference made to a real-world TV show has only enough detail to satisfy a punch line. Although we get the intended reference while viewing at home, it could mean something entirely different to the person who said it.

Here's a recent example.....

While trying to prove that a string of suicides were in fact the work of a serial killer, 'Psych' private eye Shawn Spencer was drawing equations on a large, clear plastic board.

When asked if that was doing any good by his partner Gus, Shawn replied that they used the same technique every week on 'Numb3rs'.

Okay, so we know he was making a reference to the CBS TV show which stars Rob Morrow as an FBI agent and David Krumholtz as his genius mathematician brother who uses his knowledge to help his brother solve crimes.

But how do we know that's what Shawn was actually referring to? Perhaps he was talking about another TV show with the same title but which was actually a program that really did deal with mathematical equations and how to solve them; some kind of PBS or public access show?

And for that matter, how do we know the name of the show was spelled the same, with that stupid number "3" in place of the "e"? We didn't see it written down; so for all we know, Shawn was saying "Numbers".

This will help splain away all those shows which have featured 'Star Trek' conventions ('Frasier', 'Nurses') and dreams ('The Wonder Years'). Of course, since that show is set in a future the people of today don't even know about yet, another splainin will have to be found to cover how they knew about Jim Kirk and Spock hundreds of years before they were born.

(I'm thinking that the Great Bird who came up with the 'Trek' idea in Toobworld is probably from the future himself, and decided to capitalize on the knowledge of his own true "history" for profit.)

Hopefully, this new simplification will result in far fewer Exedrin headaches for me........


"As you simplify your life,
The laws of the universe will be simpler
Henry David Thoreau

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